Main News November 15

Cargo emissions calculator is a first in the US

United Airlines, in partnership with Sustainable Travel International, has released an enhanced cargo emissions and offset calculator that is able to compute and present per capita carbon emissions for customers shipping via United Cargo. Currently, United is the only American carrier able to offer such a calculator to its customers.

Recognizing the emerging global trend for increased accountability and the need to report carbon footprint data to shippers, United’s user-friendly calculator provides information that is often now expected by its customers. Cargo customers can now easily input their place of origin and destination for each flight leg, along with the weight of their shipment, in order to calculate the total carbon footprint for their shipment, using United’s operational data.

Menzies extends Air China rapport

Menzies Aviation has expanded its relationship with Air China Cargo in the US, following the award of a contract for the provision of cargo handling services at Vancouver International airport. This award follows closely on the company’s success in securing the full handling service for Air China at Houston Intercontinental for Air China’s service on a new route that commenced in July 2013. In addition, Menzies has been successful in renewing its Air China Cargo handling contracts in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Technology permits limited electronics on board

The FAA has said that it is to relax existing regulations that restrict the inflight use of portable electronic devices, such as tablets, smart phones and electronic reading devices. In-flight cellular communication, which includes voice calls and electronic messaging, will still be prohibited, however.
In terms of international implications, the FAA rules will apply to all US registered carriers, whereas international airlines will be subject to regulatory oversight by their respective governments. Individual, national regulators will need to make their own evaluations in terms of this subject.


Labor agreement reached at United

At the end of October, United Airlines announced that its fleet service, passenger service, reservations and storekeeper workgroups at its United, Continental, Continental Micronesia and MileagePlus subsidiaries had finally ratified new joint labor agreements.

Ground handlers and other work groups total around 28,000 in all and derive from both United and Continental, before the two carriers merged in 2010. The agreements will run through 2016.

“The National Mediation Board provided support throughout the negotiating process and I want to thank board member Linda Puchala and senior mediator Patricia Sims, along with mediators Michael Kelliher and Andrew Nordgren,” said Mike Bonds, Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations. “We now have joint contracts for more than half of our represented employees, and we will work to continue our progress in negotiations with our other work groups.”

Since merging with Continental, United has made significant progress in bringing together these work groups. To date, the company has reached combined agreements for pilots, passenger service, reservations, fleet service and stores employees; whilst separate agreements have been signed with flight attendants and technicians from its United, Continental and Continental Micronesia subsidiaries.

Pre-conditioned air a bonus

PC air has been given a fresh lease of life at Seattle.

The Port of Seattle’s pre-conditioned air service can heat or cool aircraft during boarding and deplaning to reduce energy costs for airlines, improve air quality, reduce noise and increase energy efficiency throughout the airport. A centralized plant delivers pre-conditioned air through 15 miles of pipes to each of the airport’s 73 jet gates. This, in turn, allows aircraft to shut down their auxiliary power units, which release CO2 gases and other emissions, adding to airline fuel costs.

At the heart of the application is the piping installed within the existing terminal: this connects all of the gates to a system of chillers and heaters to provide the pre-conditioned air. A central plant houses a total of four 750 tonne chillers that fill 16 ice storage tanks with ethylene-glycol solution cooled by electricity provided by the airport. Additionally, a quartet of secondary pumps circulates the chilled liquid through pipes to the gates for cooling, whilst the airport’s steam plant heats the water that is piped to the gates for heating purposes.

Savings from this VALE grant-aided development are said to be prodigious: Sea-Tac estimates that it will save around 5m gallons of fuel per annum whilst the carriers can expect up to US$15m savings in terms of fuel costs. At the same time up to 40,000 tonnes of CO2 should be avoided.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, the whole network should be on-line and running by the end of this year.

Main News November 1


Gaining pace at Chicago

Chicago O’Hare opened a new runway recently, which the city hopes will cut delays by nearly 50% and permit up to 90,000 additional flights per annum as demand grows.

The 10,800 foot runway, built over the site of a former cemetery, is part of the airport’s USD$8bn modernization project. When the expansion is complete, O’Hare expects to have six east-west parallel runways and two crosswind runways.

O’Hare handles the second largest number of passengers in the US after Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, according to the Airports Council International. It has been notorious for delays through congestion and Chicago’s often wild weather.

For the 12 months ending July 2013, 68.3% of O’Hare’s departures were on time, compared to 72.1% for all major airports, according to US Department of Transportation statistics.


Sad day for Frontier

Frontier Airlines’ decision to drop its cargo facility has been met with a mixed response by the sector. Whilst it has not been a front runner in the freight stakes, nonetheless it has enjoyed a positive reputation in this industry sector. However, the end of September marked the passing of this facility.

Those saddened by the airline’s decision have commented on the competitive price structure that was the carrier’s trademark. One of its main hubs, that of Denver, looks likely to be untroubled by any ripples in the wake of the decision, though; Frontier’s cargo volumes have been dropping noticeably there of late. The fact that the carrier is currently up for sale may have influenced the decision to cut out the freight factor.



New temperature-controlled facility

FedEx Express has begun the construction of a new temperature-controlled facility and heavyweight pick-up and delivery operation at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis. Covering some 88,000 square feet, this new facility will interface with existing Memphis hub operations.

“At FedEx, we offer an outstanding customer experience for those shipping time- and temperature-sensitive goods,” declared Richard Smith, Managing Director, FedEx Express Life Sciences and Specialty Services.

“With our new, world-class cold chain facility, we will be able to better manage health care products and other perishables in the event of unforeseen delays, such as clearance holds or inclement weather, and give our customers the peace of mind they deserve when shipping sensitive goods.”

Scheduled for completion by the third quarter of 2014, the FedEx facility will provide temperature-controlled rooms for frozen, cold and controlled room temperature products. The construction will also feature flexible walls that will allow precise temperature control and segregation of commodities, alongside real-time CO2, humidity and temperature monitoring.

The features of FedEx’s new building should lead to a more precise temperature control of shipments once they have left the aircraft and as they travel through the Memphis hub.


United fined over unacceptable tarmac delay

The US Department of Transportation has fined United Airlines a total of US$1.1m for lengthy tarmac delays that took place at Chicago’s O’Hare on July 13 last year. It said that the airline had been ordered to cease and desist from future violations of the tarmac delay rule.

This figure represents the largest fine ever assessed for a tarmac delay violation since the rule limiting long tarmac delays first took effect some three years ago. Of the US$1.1m fine, United will pay just US$475,000; the remainder will cover mitigation measures for affected passengers and significant corrective actions by United to enhance future compliance with tarmac delay requirements.



Main News October 15



Request for cargo screening data to go

The International Air Cargo Association has asked the TSA to certify that its 100% cargo screening level on passenger aircraft has been achieved – and further requested that the body remove the ongoing requirement to report cargo screening data. This requirement is currently included in the standard security programs that cover the air cargo supply chain.

TIACA’s Chairman, Oliver Evans, whilst complimenting the TSA on attaining its 100% screening target, added that although this had, in fact, been achieved more than nine months ago, the requirement to report monthly air cargo screening statistics was still in place.

This, he felt, was of some concern, for the requirement places a significant labor and data collection burden on the air cargo industry, since to comply companies have to invest in IT and personnel.

Oliver Evan also asked the TSA to lift the reporting requirements, arguing that this revision would permit shippers, forwarders and carriers to adopt a more streamlined modus operandi.



Tentative agreement is reached at Horizon

Horizon Air and the Teamsters Union have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year extension of their existing labor agreement.

The new agreement, drawn up at Sea-Tac, if approved by union members, would cover 280 aircraft technicians, fleet service agents and other ancillary workers.

If the agreement meets with members’ approval, the contract will take effect from November and run until 2019. The extension agreement has come more than a year before the existing contract was scheduled to become amendable. This is not unusual, for under federal law, contracts in the airline industry do not exactly expire but rather become amendable on a specified date.

“Mechanic representatives, assisted by the Teamsters, met with the company to chisel out a contract extension well before the amendable date,” confirmed Curtis Bernier, an Horizon Air Technician and Teamster shop steward. “There are some very good provisions for consideration and it is now up to the membership to make the final decision.”

“This tentative agreement recognizes the value of our skilled and dedicated technicians, fleet service agents and other equipment technicians, whose dedication to safety and excellence are a key element to our operational excellence,” commented Glenn Johnson, Horizon Air’s President and EVP of the Alaska Air Group. “I applaud the hard work of the negotiations team, who are to be commended for reaching a tentative agreement before the amendable date of the contract.”



TSA appraisal: could do better

Overall, some 85% of frequent flyers feel that the US Transportation Security Administration is doing either a poor, or at best, a fair job in the security screening function at the nation’s airports. These are the findings of a new survey of frequent flyers recently conducted by the Frequent Business Traveler magazine.

The survey disclosed that the typical US frequent flyer continues to feel that the TSA is not doing a satisfactory job in this area, with 65.6% of respondents indicating that the TSA’s screening procedures are not effective or not too effective at preventing potential acts of terrorism on an aircraft. In contrast, some 26.6% of respondents indicated that in their view, procedures were somewhat effective, with 6.8% believing that they were very effective.

In all, the survey polled 2,415 flyers and it was conducted from August to September in partnership with FlyerTalk. Looking at the findings, Jonathan Spira of Frequent Business Traveler noted that there was still much work to be done at America’s airport security checkpoints.

Other points were that almost 45% stated that they were not satisfied with their last security experience, whilst 29.6% said that they were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with their processing.

Just under half reckoned that the TSA was doing a poor job in airport security screening; 38.2% thought it fair and 14.7% said that they rated it good. Just 1% thought that the work of the TSA was excellent.

Frequent Business Traveler conducted a similar survey last year, where the TSA’s negative ratings were, in fact, higher. This year, the administration received improved marks in every category – the amount of frequent flyers who found the TSA to be doing a poor or fair job in airport security screenings dropped by a total of five percentage points. Moreover, the percentage of survey respondents who found the TSA’s efforts ineffective at preventing acts of terrorism dropped by ten percentage points.

Main News September 23

July statistics flag up delays

Airlines reported 13 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and three tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights in July. This information was detailed in the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report.
Of the 13 domestic delays, 12 involved flights departing New York’s LaGuardia airport on July 22: this was in the wake of a runway incident. All of the reported tarmac delays, domestic and international, are under investigation by the Department.
All the larger US airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Under a rule that took effect August 23, 2011, all US and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report any unduly long tarmac delays at US airports.
Also that year, carriers operating international flights were not permitted tarmac delays at US airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to deplane. There is a separate three hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights, which went into effect in April 2010. Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.

The 16 airlines that file their on-time performance data with the Department have reported that 73.1% of their flights arrived on time in July, which was down from the 76% on-time rate recorded in July 2012; this was, however, better than the 71.9% figure posted in June 2013.



Sequestration: cause for concern

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned that airport security lines would be longer if Congress allows sequestration to continue in the next financial year. Further, she has called for Congress to end the automatic budget cuts that have been in place since March this year. If the budget cuts continue, she believes, passengers will have to wait longer at security checkpoints before their flights.

When the sequestration process was first implemented, Napolitano warned of the possibility of longer airport security lines. Critics argued that she (along with other Obama administration officials) was using “scare tactics” to win the political argument with Republicans over the budget. Napolitano denies this, saying that the threat is very real and that it needs addressing now.



Passenger figures up

According to recent data released by Airports Council International, which is based in Montreal, more than 1.56bn passengers arrived and departed from North American airports in 2012. This represents a 1.3% increase on the previous year. Cargo increased by 0.8% while total operations decreased by 1.4%.

“The fact that North America’s airports continue to rank among the world’s busiest underscores their tremendous importance to the global economy and the economies of the local communities that they serve,” said Deborah C. McElroy, interim President of Airports Council International-North America. “Making the necessary infrastructure investments today will ensure that companies in North America, as well as ACI-NA’s member airports, retain their competitive edge in the future.”

The four busiest airports were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, with more than 95.5m passengers, followed by Chicago’s O’Hare, with 66.6m. Los Angeles was close behind (63.7m) whilst Dallas/Fort Worth posted a figure of 58.6m.

Memphis International kept its position as the largest cargo airport in North America, handling approximately 4m tonnes of freight, which equated to an increase of 2.5% over last year’s totals. Anchorage International ranked second in North America, with a 3.1% decrease in its cargo volume to 2.5m tonnes.

Canada’s busiest airport was Toronto Pearson, ranked 14th in North America for passengers with 34.9m: this was an increase of 4.4% over 2011. It ranked 15th in terms of total cargo handled (with 417,022 tonnes) and took 11th position in terms of total movements.



Vancouver goes for automated solution

At the start of September, Vancouver Airport Authority announced that its Automated Passport Control, a technology solution developed by Vancouver Airport Authority in conjunction with the US Customs and Border Protection, would be available to Canadian passport holders travelling to the US from Vancouver International.

“Vancouver Airport Authority is constantly looking for ways to move people and bags through the airport more efficiently,” commented Craig Richmond, President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority. “Automated Passport Control is just one of the many examples of homegrown innovation developed here that improves the traveling experience. Because of the demonstrated success of Automated Border Clearance and now Automated Passport Control, other airports are approaching us to help them implement these Vancouver-designed programs.”

Automated Passport Control is an expedited customs entry process that allows eligible passengers travelling from Vancouver International Airport to the US to clear Customs and Border Protection more efficiently, while still ensuring the same high standard of safety and security. Since its launch at the airport, Vancouver Airport Authority has provided the technology to Chicago Department of Aviation, installing the system at Chicago O’Hare, which has become the first US airport to implement Automated Passport Control. Vancouver Airport Authority is now working with Montreal-Trudeau Airport and Delta Air Lines at John F Kennedy’s Terminal 4 in New York to implement the same technology.

Based on data collected at Vancouver and O’Hare, Automated Passport Control has significantly increased passenger processing efficiency. Key improvements when using Automated Passport Control include that of a quadrupling of passengers processed per Customs Border Control officer and a solution that is 89% faster than the typical Customs and Border Protection primary inspection process. Further, it has been calculated that 33% less time is spent waiting in line by travelers.

Main News September 6

Outsourcing on the cards at United?

O’Hare International airport was picketed recently by a group of United Airlines union workers who were objecting to plans that would see ground handling jobs being outsourced.

The action was organized by Local Lodge 1487 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. In all, six airports were named by United: those of Albany and Rochester, Tucson, Harrisburg, Cincinnati and Grand Rapids. Positions under threat included those of gate staff, customer service agents and baggage handlers. In its defence, United’s spokesperson alluded to the ongoing search for greater efficiencies within its operation. She added that those affected would have the chance to transfer to other stations or take advantage of an “early-out” program.

United’s outsourcing plans have been in the news for several months now.



New ops center due next year

Air Canada is opening a new global Operations Center in Brampton, Ontario, that will be fully operational in the first quarter of 2014.

The new facility is the result of a two-year US$57.4m investment and will serve as the central control for the airline’s operations, with 400 employees overseeing, on a round-the-clock basis, nearly 600 Air Canada flights each day.

“Air Canada is already recognized as one of the world’s best airlines and our new, leading-edge Operations Center will further strengthen our position. This new mission control center incorporates the latest in technological and other design elements,” revealed Calin Rovinescu, President and CEO.

The 75,000 square foot facility has been completed on time and within budget.

Once the building is in service in 2014, it will become the global nerve center for Air Canada’s operations.



San Diego benefits from Club lounge

In mid-August, United Airlines opened its new United Club lounge in Terminal 2 at San Diego International airport: this is the third Club to feature the airline’s new design concept. The opening coincides with the consolidation of United’s terminal facilities with the newly expanded Terminal 2 West, offering customers a new ticketing lobby, baggage claim area and improved shopping and dining options.

The 5,842 square foot United Club in San Diego is located in Terminal 2 West on the Mezzanine level, directly above the airport’s new Sunset Cove, an atrium that offers panoramic views of the airfield. The United Club features spectacular views of the Point Loma seaside community, balcony lounge seating within the atrium and a centrally located buffet and bar. The new and improved furnishings enable customers to relax or work with greater ease and comfort.

United is investing more than US$50m this year to renovate several of the airline’s 49 United Club locations. United unveiled the new design prototype with the opening of the United Club in Terminal 2 at Chicago O’Hare International airport last year. The airline recently opened a newly designed United Club at Seattle-Tacoma International airport.


Brazilian project handed to Swissport

Swissport has been selected to manage an FBO/hangar project currently under construction at Brazil’s Sorocaba airport. When completed at the end of this year, the new World-Way Aviation facility will cover 150,000 square feet, and will include a pair of hangars with enough room for large business jets up to the size of an Embraer Lineage 1000; there is also provision for around 100,000 square feet of ramp space. The complex has been designed by the architectural firm Galvao Consolin Aircraft. Comprising three levels, the terminal will feature a VIP lounge, conference room, coffee shop, pilots’ lounge, flight planning room and a fitness center, along with 30 private offices. There will also be a security camera-monitored parking garage.



Maguire Aviation purchased

BBA Aviation, the aviation support and aftermarket services provider, has announced that Signature Flight Support has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of the Maguire Aviation Group, which is based at Van Nuys airport, in Los Angeles. The purchase price has been put at US$69m and is on a cash and debt-free basis. The acquisition will be subject to customary approvals but is expected to be completed before the end of 2013.

This acquisition of the site’s largest operator will serve to strengthen Signature Flight Support’s existing position at Van Nuys, and extend its footprint by a considerable margin to 1.1m square feet of hangar space, ramp, passenger lounges and office space. Following the acquisition, Signature will also become the owner and operate the dedicated NetJets facility on the field, which is the second such facility in its network.

Van Nuys airport serves the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and currently ranks as the sixth busiest business and general aviation airport in the US: it handles in excess of 250,000 aircraft movements per annum.

Main News August 20th 2013

Unhappy handlers at Houston

A number of employees at the Houston-based handler Servisair have filed a federal lawsuit, saying that they’ve been cheated out of pay.

The lawsuit accuses Servisair of intentionally rounding down employee hours worked in the company’s favor. It also claims that the handler did not reimburse employees who worked during their lunch hours and that the handler has made use of a time-keeping system that automatically reduces time worked for its employees at more than 20 airports around the country. The suit seeks class action status to represent the entire group and it is estimated that each employee has lost around five hours’ overtime per week since 2010, and possibly earlier.

The lawsuit accuses the company of deducting 30 minutes each day from workers’ timecards for lunches that were not taken. It further alleges that the company manipulated its time-keeping software system by rounding up start times. Overall, those pressing the suit believe that some tens of millions of dollars have been withheld by the employer.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that the handler has been sued over its payroll strategy: three separate incidents were recorded in Florida in 2012, for example.

A Servisair representative declared that the company had not been notified about the lawsuit and had that there was no official comment for the moment.



Gunning for you…

Despite media awareness campaigns, firearms and airports continue to mix and Sea-Tac holds the dubious record of being one of the main offending airports when it comes to passengers carrying guns. The latest data from the federal government reveals that almost 40 guns were confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration and Port of Seattle security personnel in 2012, putting Sea-Tac firmly in the number eight slot of the top ten guilty airports.

The TSA actually reported a 30% increase in the number of guns seized at US airports this year compared to the last. Passengers ought to be aware that attempted carriage of a firearm through an airport security checkpoint is both a state and a federal crime, even if the passenger has a concealed weapons permit.

What was perhaps more worrying was the evidence that purported to show that a large percentage of passengers who were caught were not charged with the crime. In fact, a review of four years’ worth of police and prosecutor office reports has shown that 113 passengers were caught at Sea-Tac checkpoints with guns. Of that total, 53 passengers were never charged.



TSA comes in for criticism

According to statistics, complaints leveled against US airport security workers have increased by 26% during the past three years. Worse still, the Transportation Security Agency lacks comprehensive systems to ensure that its employees follow its rules, says a government report.

The report says that complaints included use of drugs and alcohol by TSA agents whilst on duty, along with inconsistent use of security devices, which included X-ray machines.

The report also mentioned nearly 3,500 misconduct allegations, which were filed against TSA workers last year: this was up from 2,691 recorded statements in 2010. Most of these concerned violations of attendance and security policies, says the report published by the Government Accountability Office.


JBT picks up multiple bridge order

JBT Corporation announced recently that its JBT AeroTech business section has received a gate equipment order in excess of US$5m from San Francisco International airport.

The contract, placed by the Hensel Phelps Construction Company, is for the supply of ten new Jetway passenger boarding bridges. These passenger boarding bridges form a key part of the San Francisco Terminal 3 Boarding Area E Improvements Project, which was recently begun to create an environmentally-sustainable facility with world-class passenger amenities.


Main News July 24th 2013



Them and us?

The US aviation sector remains in a state of paradox, if reports of US Airways senior executive pay are anything to go by.

At several airports served by the carrier, staff have started to call into question the carrier’s operating model that has seen, for example, the company CEO reputedly seek a 44% pay rise. Chief concerns are the lack of security in the job, the absence of much in the way of benefits and the fact that salaries can be as low as US$5 an hour. Disgruntled staff at Newark, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Boston and Philadelphia, this latter something of blackspot in terms of unemployment, have been vocal on this subject and a number protested recently about the situation outside a US Airways shareholders’ meeting in Manhattan.

The reality that sees numbers of ramp workers obliged to hold down two jobs to make ends meet is not good news when the sector’s gaze is so firmly fixed on making the ramp a safer place.



When random is the name of the game

The Transportation Security Administration has said that it is planning to use electronic Randomizers to help funnel passengers into airport security lines. In addition to providing a simple way to direct travelers into different queues, it also would make it more difficult for any passengers with nefarious intent to slip past security with prohibited items.

In June, the TSA issued a Request for Information; in this, it asked interested vendors to share ideas and suggestions for procuring such random directing systems. These applications, it says, would subsequently be deployed at most medium and large US airports.

When asked about the reasoning behind the devices, the TSA replied that it was sticking to a multi-layered approach to security, utilizing measures that were both seen and unseen. Unpredictability would play an important part in this philosophy.



Delta Air Lines fined again for bumping

The Transportation Department has fined Delta Air Lines US$750,000 for bumping passengers from full flights without asking for volunteers and for failing to provide information about the levels of compensation that are available. Delta committed similar violations in July 2009, when the airline was fined $375,000.

“Airline passengers deserve to be treated fairly, especially if they are forced to miss a flight because an airline oversold seats,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the fine. “Consumers have rights, and we will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules, to protect the traveling public.”

Federal regulations require airlines to seek volunteers willing to give up their seats when flights are oversold. If passengers still need to be bumped, they are entitled to up to $1,300, depending on the cost of their tickets and length of delay.

The Transportation Department’s aviation enforcement office reviewed 310 bumping complaints against Delta from November 2010 to January 2012. The complaints said that Delta didn’t seek volunteers, didn’t provide written notices about cash compensation and counted some bumped passengers as volunteers.


Have fees, will raise?

Alaska Airlines has just announced that it is raising its fee for a checked-in bag to US$25.

It has said that for tickets purchased on or after October 30 this year, passengers will pay a fee of US$25 each for the first and second checked bags. Any additional bags will cost US$75 each. At present, the airline charges US$20 per bag for the first three suitcases. Work out the sums and you will see that for a passenger carrying three bags, this is effectively doubling the ancillary revenue. That represents a 100% hike in fees.

In its defense, the airline says that it will keep its unique baggage service guarantee. If a passenger’s bags are not at the baggage claim area within 20 minutes of the aircraft parked at the gate, Alaska says that it will issue a refund of US$20 for use on a future flight or 2,000 extra frequent flier miles. This discount is set to increase to US$25 and the allowance to 2,500 miles on the above-mentioned date.


VIP bag delivery service

Customers are now able to have their bags delivered directly to their home, hotel or business, thanks to Bags VIP delivery. Travelers can schedule and pay for a Bags VIP delivery up to one hour prior to their scheduled departure by visiting Once scheduled, customers then need only to drop their bags off at the airport and pay any applicable baggage fees. Items will then be delivered within four to six hours of arrival. This convenient delivery service starts at US$29.95 and is offered in all domestic locations that the airline serves.



Main News July 5th 2013

A sustainable future mooted

The Federal Aviation Administration has contacted the world’s fuel producers and requested that they submit proposals for fuel options that would help the aviation industry make the move towards a greater usage of unleaded fuel.

The FAA has said that it is looking to develop a new unleaded fuel by 2018 that would minimize the effect of replacing 100 octane low-lead fuel for most of the general aviation fleet.

“General aviation is vital to the US economy and is an important form of transportation for many Americans,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently. “We need to work with industry to develop an unleaded fuel that advances aviation safety and improves the environment.”

The FAA will assess the candidate fuels in terms of their effect on the existing fleet, their production and distribution infrastructure, their effect on the environment and toxicology and economic considerations.

Fuel producers had to submit data packages by July: thereafter, the FAA will choose up to ten suppliers to participate in the first stage of laboratory testing at William J Hughes Technical Center, in Atlantic City.

It is understood that the FAA will select perhaps two fuels from the initial phase for phase two engine and aircraft testing. Over the next five years, the FAA is expected to ask fuel producers to submit 100 gallons of fuel for phase one testing and 10,000 gallons of fuel for phase two testing.





Firearm philosophy due for a re-think?

According to reports, during the first six months of this year Transportation Security Administration screeners detected almost 900 guns, either on passengers or in their carry-on bags: this equates to a 30% increase over the same period in 2012. In May, in just one week, 65 were found. That was 30% more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.

Overall, in 2012 the TSA found a total of 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, this figure up 17% from the year before. In all, 85% of the weapons intercepted last year were loaded, the most common type being a .38 caliber pistol. Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is more dominant, recorded the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to recent TSA data.

Many passengers found to have guns by screeners are arrested, but this is not always the case: it depends on the gun laws in the state wherein the airport is located. If the state has tolerant gun laws, TSA screeners will frequently hand the gun back to the passenger, recommending that it be locked away.




Efficiency the name of the game in Atlanta

Hartsfield Jackson has been named as the most efficient airport in the world for 2013. This, in fact, will be the tenth year that the airport has been the recipient of the Efficiency Excellence Award, which is given by the Air Transport Research Society, an international association of air transport academics.

Aside from that Seoul, Sydney, Copenhagen and Minneapolis-St Paul all came out top in their respective categories. Further down the list, amongst airports with fewer than 15m passengers per year, Oklahoma City and Geneva were ranked highest.
Considered the most comprehensive independent evaluation of global airport performance, the Air Transport Research Society compares the efficiency of 195 airports and 26 airport groups spread around the Asia Pacific region, Europe and the US. ATRS ranks individual airport efficiency through use of a ratio that divides the output index created by a consistent aggregation of aircraft movements, passenger volumes and non-aeronautical revenue generation activities by the input index, which is the result of a consistent aggregation of full-time equivalent labor and other operational expenses.



Signature buys share in Starlink


Late in June, Signature Flight Support announced that it had agreed to purchase a majority share of Starlink Aviation’s FBO in Montreal. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and it is expected to be completed during the third quarter of this year. Starlink Aviation will continue to fully own and operate the real estate and aircraft management, aircraft maintenance, corporate shuttle and aircraft charter services.

Back in 2010 Starlink Aviation signed a licensing agreement with Signature Flight Support in which the FBO became co-branded as Signature Flight Support. As a Signature network location, Starlink Aviation was able to access Signature’s global sales and marketing programs, the Signature Status loyalty program, proprietary customer service and safety training, as well as tap into Signature’s global purchasing power.


In Brief

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently issued citations to a handler for a total of 23 violations at Los Angeles airport. The department found numerous unsafe working conditions in Menzies Aviation’s operations at the airport, two of which it deemed to be of a “serious” classification.

Main News June 21st 2013


A drop in the ocean?

United Airlines has confirmed a deal with the low carbon fuel maker AltAir Fuels that will see it purchase biofuel and other renewable products for future flights. Under the terms of the contract AltAir Fuels will produce the fuel from a retrofit portion of an existing refiner.

As many readers will be aware, biofuel is a substitute for traditional petroleum-based jet fuel, and it requires no modification for use with existing engine technology. United has said that it has plans to buy 15m gallons of the fuel at a rate of 5m gallons per year over a three year period: this will start in 2014. Further, United has the option to purchase more if required. Perhaps the most interesting fact is that United has revealed that it is purchasing the biofuel at a cost that equates to that of traditional fuel.

This Los Angeles facility thus becomes AltAir’s first fuel production project. Although in terms of the environment the quantities under discussion are minute, nonetheless the initiative should be welcomed by the sector.




Knife ruling overturned

It’s been some time coming but finally a decision has been made on the topic of blades on board aircraft. The TSA’s John Pistole has decided not to permit passengers to carry small knives on aircraft: this comes in the wake of much criticism from both the public and airline cabin crew.

John Pistole had earlier proposed to slacken the regulations over knife carriage, regulations that date back to the 9/11 disasters. April 25 was mooted as the date that the law would change but this announcement caused so much outcry that the TSA was obliged to reconsider its stance. This latest decision seems likely to restore the status quo.



Air Canada looking for savings

Canada’s principal carrier has announced that it will be looking to trim costs by up to 15% in the medium term. To achieve this it will seek to add capacity whilst introducing more fuel-efficient aircraft; also planned is the launch of a low cost carrier.

The airline believes that capacity for the coming year will be expanded by 9-11%, this in part occasioned by the acquisition of five B777-300ER aircraft along with seven Dreamliners. Air Canada added that its transfer of Embraer 175 aircraft to Sky Regional would assist it in reducing the overall cost per seat mile by up to 15%.



Staff representation still far from clear

The Teamsters union has been escalating its campaign to oust other unions within the industry.

Teamsters’ officials have said that they have filed a petition with a federal labor agency to try and force an election against the Transport Workers Union in the representation of mechanics at American Airlines. Moreover, the Teamsters are seeking to represent mechanics at US Airways who are currently represented by the machinists’ union. The outcome of both elections will determine which union will eventually negotiate with the newly-merged airline. It is expected that American and US Airways will seal the merger deal within the next few months.

The Transport Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said earlier that they would share the representation of the mechanics and other ground workers after the two carriers merge. However, such a deal would be unworkable if either loses an election to the Teamsters.

By law, the Teamsters need the support of at least half of the American Airlines’ mechanics to force an election.



Delta to scale down at Memphis

Delta Air Lines has said that it is planning to drop Memphis as a hub later this year. This will entail making 230 staff redundant, whilst it cuts back on flights to make the location more profitable. Delta has said, though, that some staff will be offered buy-out packages and that others will have the option of other jobs. The carrier added in a memorandum to its staff that escalating fuel costs and its reliance on uneconomical 50 seat regional jets have contributed to an essentially unprofitable situation. The job cuts, which will involve customer service staff and Delta Cargo workers, will take effect from the start of September.


In Brief

According to data recently released by the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.7% fewer staff in March this year compared to figures from March 2012. This represents the seventh consecutive month that employment levels have been lower than those of a year ago.

Main News June 5th 2013


March statistics: good overall

Airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours’ duration on domestic flights in March, although there was one tarmac delay of more than four hours on an international flight. This data was gleaned from the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, which was released recently. It is understood that the long tarmac delay, which involved a Bogotá flight, is under investigation by the Department.
All the big US airlines have been required to file complete reports on extended tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Moreover, in 2011, carriers operating international flights mere not entitled to permit tarmac delays at US airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to disembark. The only exceptions to the time limits for domestic and international flights are those involving safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.


Travel light for better treatment

American Airlines has extended preferential boarding to customers flying with small bags or no carry-on bags.

The carrier says that customers not needing to stow a bag in an overhead storage bin will be able to board between the Group 1 and Group 2 boarding queues. Currently, American gives boarding priority to its first class and elite level fliers before moving on to Groups 1 through 4. The carrier adds that it successfully trialed the new process at seven airports earlier this year and in conclusion, it has now rolled out the change system-wide, in an effort to reduce its boarding times.

American cites on-time performance as being a key factor in the airline’s dependability rating: simply put, every minute saved during boarding allows American to push back from the gate earlier, thereby resulting in a more timely departure and arrival.

The other side of the coin also relates to airline behavior. Airline officials reckon that boarding times have increased in the last few years: this is because the airlines have cut back on flights, which in turn makes aircraft more crowded; added to this are charges for checking baggage, which encourages passengers to take their luggage on board the aircraft. The subsequent scenario is not difficult to imagine… less space in the bins can cause tempers to rise.

However, American believes that this initiative should trim around two minutes off the boarding time, which constitutes a useful saving.

In a further announcement, American has said that customers at the gate who decide they’d like to board prior to Group 2 will be able to gate-check their carry-on bag at no charge. Clearly, some fliers may want to benefit from this and move up the queue although the corollary is that these passengers could effectively fly without paying a baggage fee. And, by extension, if more and more travelers decide to gate-check their bag, then that will tie up the check-in staff, to the detriment of the whole operation that is seeking to be more efficient and improve departure times.


Better conditions on the horizon?

Low paid workers within the ground handling sector is not exactly news. Whatis news, though, is when activists start lobbying a city council to improve the working conditions and wages of airport handlers. Exactly this has happened at Philadelphia International, where community activists, along with an inter-faith group, have been trying to secure better conditions for the 1,500 or so workers employed at the airport.

To that end, the POWER group (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) has held a prayer vigil and been vocal in its representations for the staff affected, who are employed by a subcontractor, PrimeFlight Aviation Services, of Nashville.

Part of the problem hinges on the two year lease extension that will allow for a US$734m cash injection at the hub. However, the lease must secure council approval first – and the deadline for this falls at the end of June. Unless that is in place, then airlines would be bereft of a contract and would be able to pull out of the airport with just 30 days’ notice.

Check out the check-in check

Airlines are collecting record baggage fees – this fact has been aired at length in the media. In fact, some 55% of all travelers still check in their luggage, either all or some of the time. These were the findings of a recent survey conducted by The GO Group, an international ground transportation service provider and GO Airport Express, a GO member and Chicago-based ground transportation company that serves O’Hare International and Midway airports.

In the recent survey, more than 570 travelers were questioned on their luggage habits. Just 27% said that they always check in their luggage, while 28% said that they both check in and carry-on bags. A mere 19% admitted that they always carry luggage on board.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the country’s 15 largest carriers collected in total US$3.5bn in bag fees in 2012 as part of their attempts to boost their balance sheets.

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